Hepatitis B Hits Japanese Football Team
Bleeding may have transmitted infection, study shows
By Nicolle Charbonneau
Sept. 13 (HealthSCOUT) -- Being an athlete demands blood,
sweat and tears. Unfortunately, shedding blood for a team
sport may pass a dangerous virus among players.
study in the latest issue of the Archives of Internal
Medicine describes five cases of acute hepatitis B and six
cases of asymptomatic infection that occurred on a 74-member
football team at the University of Okayama in Japan.
researchers concluded that blood from open wounds or scratches
from this rough-and-tumble sport might have transmitted
hepatitis B virus (HBV) among the athletes. One hepatitis
expert says the findings make a strong argument for preventive
vaccinations against the virus.
B is a serious disease that damages liver cells. It can lead
to scarring of the liver and an increased risk of liver
cancer. More than 200,000 people of all ages get hepatitis B
each year in the United States.
can survive outside the body for at least seven days on a dry
surface, and is 100 times more contagious than HIV, the virus
that causes AIDS. HBV is transmitted through body fluids, such
as blood, semen and vaginal secretions.
most commonly is spread through sexual contact, but any kind
of sharp contaminated instruments can transmit the virus. HBV
infection has occurred during tattooing, body piercing,
acupuncture, human bites, or through blood transfusions before
HBV testing became available in 1975.
tests on the Japanese players and managers revealed the virus
began with a single player who carried the hepatitis B e
antigen (HBeAg) while playing in the middle of the
offensive line during training. Two other asymptomatic
carriers played quarterback and wide receiver.
presence of the antigen means a person is carrying the
disease, though there may be no symptoms.
the players who developed acute hepatitis B were either
offensive of defensive linemen in the same training group as
the original carrier. None of the defensive backs, who rarely
had physical contact with the first carrier or the offensive
or defensive lines during training, became infected with HBV.
the researchers concluded the HBV antigen was probably passed
to other players through a bleeding injury during training.
a lot of virus in blood. You get direct blood-to-blood contact
and there is always the potential for transmission of this
disease," says Thelma King Thiel, chairwoman of the
Hepatitis Foundation International.
best defense is immunization, says Thiel.
if you're in a high-risk sports activity like this, it would
be a good idea to get them all vaccinated. Vaccination would
be a simple answer to prevention, as far as this population
goes," she says.
vaccine, which is ideally given to newborns, can last 14 years
Reeves, head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, tells his players
about HBV. "I think everybody should be vaccinated,"
Falcons club holds a seminar for players on the various types
of hepatitis, including the risk of infection from tattooing
or piercing. Reeves says the seminar, which has included
speeches by alcoholics and drug addicts, has been the most
heavily attended meeting the organization has arranged.
says the National Football League is very conscious of
trainers use rubber gloves," says Reeves. "Anytime
you have any kind of bleeding, you take serious precautions
because you're worried about any kind of transmission."
You can find out more about hepatitis B from the American
Liver Foundation the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention .
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